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Will Taj Gibson be next offseason's payroll casualty?

"Whaddayamean you're 'tapped out'?" (Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE)
"Whaddayamean you're 'tapped out'?" (Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE)

I know, we're just getting over the debacle we just saw this past offseason. But I always say it's never too early to think of the next great disappointment the Bulls will throw at you. While most of the bench mob has been jettisoned for future flexibility to save cash, its arguably most important member, Taj Gibson is still under contract. However, he is eligible for restricted Free Agency next season, and there's been no word of any current negotiation for a long-term extension yet.

Doug Thonus at Bulls Confidential is just being a logical person, because it doesn't take much to see the same thing happening with Taj as just did with Omer Asik:

So far, the silence on the Gibson extension front has been deafening. It's easy to see why. The Bulls don't want to pay Taj 10-12 million per year in an extension now, but if I'm Taj Gibson, it might prove difficult to convince me to sign for less [given the Asik deal].

The Bulls have 63 million wrapped up in Rose, Boozer, Noah, Deng, Hinrich, Butler and Teague. Add 1 million for Hamilton's buyout if they're unable to find a taker for him at the trade deadline, and Chicago's sitting at $65,554,343 for seven players.

If Taj starts at nine million with a four year extension worth 40 million the Bulls would be at 74.5 million for eight players with a minimum of adding around 4.4 million to fill out the roster with minimum salaried players pushing the Bulls to 79 million dollars. The early number for luxury tax projection for next season is 72-73 million which sets up Chicago to pay 9.5 to 11.5 million in luxury tax if they only use the minimum to fill out the roster. [Yes, that means not using their draft pick]

I double-checked Doug's numbers (no offense, man) and also came to around $65m. We can blame Kirk Hinrich and Carlos Boozer if it makes everyone feel better, but the issue remains that the Bulls are in a very similar bind to what they were in this season, or the same situation the Atlanta Hawks were in for the past several years.

Amnestying Boozer is of course the preferred option, though the unlikelihood that they do so is the lie of the Bulls talk about 'flexibility'. By pulling that trigger sooner than 2014, they could have their room under the tax to add more avenues of player addition. But they'd still have to pay the man (and it's safe to assume there wouldn't be much of a bid to offset the deal given the history of the amnesty bidding so far) which is then rightfully part of ownership's payroll calculation, like any scary luxury tax payment would be.

The 2014 plan is a lie, it's just looking at when they can more justifiably Amnesty Boozer, while trimming payroll elsewhere too. It's gone beyond unimaginative beat writers and snowballed into a concept that has national columnists nodding along, which has me worried that this may not just be trying to connect the salary dots and balancing the Bulls's stupid/evil scale, but it's the team's actual course of action. I don't see how $8-11m for Taj Gibson really fits into that plan, either. Instead I'm thinking I'll have my handy salary spreadsheets open again in 11 months, anticipating Taj Gibson's future "silly" (to some) contract, and figuring how the Bulls will back up their future tough-talk on the matter of matching it. It's possible they quietly let Taj go before giving an interview to Chuck Swirsky only to disappear again.